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SCIENCE FILE | Earthwatch / A Diary of the Planet

June 13, 1996

Futuristic Forest

Forestry scientists in New Zealand began planting 200,000 so- called super pine trees in what is being called the world's first "science fiction forest."

Using a technology known as facile cuttings, thousands of new trees can be obtained from a single pine needle. The offspring carry the exact genetic structure of the parent, and mimic its growth rate, wood density and resistance to disease.


A second year of severe drought in China's wheat belt has parched 17.5 million acres and caused the lower reaches of Yellow River in Shandong Province to dry up five times since January.

Lack of monsoon rains, and the resulting shortage of hydroelectric power in Sri Lanka, prompted officials to shut down the country's six TV channels at 9:30 p.m. in an effort to save electricity.

Persistent drought in parts of Spain, Portugal, Tunisia and Turkey has led to a significant drop in olive oil production this year.


High winds after a nearly snowless winter in southern Alaska fanned huge wildfires that destroyed scores of homes and blackened tens of thousands of acres of forest.

The blazes forced the evacuation of several settlements north of Anchorage.

Wildfires east of Los Angeles destroyed more than 1,000 acres of forest and at least five homes.


A magnitude 5.4 quake cracked walls in northwest China's Gansu Province but cause no injuries. Earth movements were also felt in northern and southern New Zealand, the Gulf of Aqaba, central Mexico, southern Alaska and Montana.


Severe flooding in southern and eastern Ethiopia killed a dozen people and left 30,000 homeless. Radio reports said the Wavi River near the town of Mustahil overflowed its banks, sweeping away hundreds of homes. Most of those made homeless were in the Afar region.

Unprecedented rains in Ivory Coast's capital of Abidjan killed 28 people, mainly in slum dwellings.

Bird Calls

Police in the Italian port of Genoa forced their way into an apartment to save what they thought was a child in danger, but were confronted with only an exotic bird, singing "Mama, mama, help!"

The authorities were called by a worker in the area who thought he heard the plaintive cry of a small child. The bird was an Indian songthrush taught to speak by its owner.

Additional Sources: U.S. Climate Analysis Center, U.S. Earthquake Information Center and the World Meteorological Organization.

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