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Science File / An exploration of issues and trends
affecting science, medicine and the environment | Earthwatch:
A Diary of the Planet

A World Park

January 22, 1998

The entire icy continent of Antarctica has been designated as a global wilderness preserve by an international agreement that took effect Jan. 14. Mining and oil drilling are banned for at least 50 years by the accord, and it prohibits a wide range of environmental hazards such as pesticides and even dogs. Sled dogs may no longer be used for transportation on the new continental park because they have killed penquins and other native birds. More than 15 years of lobbying by environmental groups led to the agreement when Japan became the final member of the Antarctic Treaty to ratify the Environmental Protection Protocol.

Monarch Agreement

Mexico and Canada signed an agreement to create a protected forest in Mexico's Michoacan state for the migrating monarch butterfly. The area is one of the poorest in Mexico, and the population has felled vast areas of the monarch's winter habitat to create charcoal for fuel.

The Michoacan refuge wil be the third sponsored by Canada in Mexico. "Model forests" are also located in the northern state of Chihuahua and on the Yucatan Penninsula. Monarchs fly up to 2,400 miles each year between their breeding grounds in Canada and the United States to winter refuges in Mexico.

Earthquakes

A powerful temblor rocked China's Hebei province, killing at least 50 people and wrecking more than 100,000 homes. An international relief effort was launched to help the survivors, many of whom had taken shelter in straw beds with temperatures dropping to 0 Fahrenheit.

Two strong tremors damaged nearly 200 homes when they struck Iran's Mazandaran province. In the Guatemalan highlands, several homes were destroyed by a magnitude 6.3 quake.

Quakes were also felt in coastal Chile, central Peru, western Greece, northern Turkey, eastern Romania, Russia's Lake Baikal region, Tibet, eastern and southern Japan, Taiwan, the Kuri Islands and south-central Alaska.

Eruptions

Italy's famed Mt. Etna began spewing ash and lava over the island of Sicily after being mainly quiet for nearly five years. The eruption followed several days of strong tremors from deep within Europe's largest and most active volcano. Seismologists belive there is no immediate threat of a major eruption, but in 1992, U.S. and Italian military teams were forced to build concrete barriers to keep Etna's lava from reaching the nearby village of Zafferana.

Mt. Merapi volcano was spotted spewing lava in central Java, prompting officals to put nearby residents on alert for possible evacuation. The mountain has shown signs of renewed activity in recent months.

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

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