Bamboo, A Wonder Plant
The wonder plant with an uncertain future: more than a billion people rely on bamboo for either their shelter or income, while many endangered species depend on it for their survival. Despite its apparent abundance, a new report says that species of bamboo may be under serious threat.
Every year, during the rainy season, the mountain gorillas of Central Africa migrates to the foothills and lower slopes of the Virunga Mountains to graze on bamboo. For the 650 or so that remain in the wild, it’s a vital food source. Although they at almost 150 types of plant, as well as various insects and other invertebrates, at this time of year bamboo accounts for up to 90 per cent of their diet. Without it, says Ian Redmond, chairman of the Ape Alliance, their chances of survival would be reduced significantly. Gorillas aren’t the only locals keen on bamboo. For the people who live close to the Virungas, it’s a valuable and versatile raw material used for building houses and making household items such as mats and baskets. But in the past 100 years or so, resources have come under increasing pressure as populations have exploded and large areas of bamboo forest have been cleared to make way for farms and commercial plantations.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated story. All over the world, the ranges of many bamboo species appear to be shrinking, endangering the people and animals (that depend upon them. But despite bamboo’s importance, we know surprisingly little about it. A recent report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Inter-national Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) has revealed just how profound is our ignorance of global bamboo resources, particularly in relation to conservation. There are almost 1,600 recognised species of bamboo, but the report concentrated on the 1,200 or so woody varieties distinguished by the strong stems, or culms, that most people associate with this versatile plant. Of these, only 38 ‘priority species’ identified for their commercial value have been the subject of any real scientific research, and this has focused mostly on matters relating to their viability as a commodity. This problem isn’t confined to bamboo. Compared to the work carried out on animals, the science of assessing the conservation status of plants is still in its infancy. “People have only started looking hard at this during the past 10-15 years, and only now are they getting a handle on how to go about it systematically,” says Dr. Valerie Kapos, one of the report’s authors and a senior advisler in forest ecology and conservation to the UNEP
Bamboo is a type of grass. It comes in a wide variety of forms, ranging in height from 30 centimetres to more than 40 metres. It is also the world’s fastest-growing woody plant; some species can grow more than a metre in a day. Bamboo’s ecological rote extends beyond providing food and habitat for animals. Bamboo tends to grow in stands made up of groups of individual plants that grow from root systems known as rhizomes. Its extensive rhizome systems, which tie in predicting the top layers of the soil, are crucial in preventing soil erosion. And there is growing evidence that bamboo plays an important part in determining forest structure and dynamics. “Bamboo’s pattern of mass flowering and mass death leaves behind large areas of dry biomass that attract wildfire,” says Kapos. “When these bum, they create patches of open ground within the forest far bigger than would be left by a fallen tree.” Patchiness helps to preserve diversity because certain plant species do better during the early stages of regeneration when there are gaps in the canopy.
However, bamboo’s most immediate significance lies in its economic value. Modem processing techniques mean that it can be used in a variety of ways, for example, as flooring and laminates. One of the fastest growing bamboo products is paper -25 per cent of paper produced in India is made from bamboo fiber and in Brazil, 100,000 hectares of bamboo are grown for its production. Of course, bamboo’s main function has always been in domestic applications, and as a locally traded commodity it’s worth about US$4.5billion annually. Because of its versatility, flexibility and strength (its tensile strength compares to that of some steel), it has traditionally been used in construction. Today, more than one billion people worldwide live in bamboo houses. Bamboo is often the only readily available raw material for people in many developing countries, says Chris Staple-ton, a research associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens. “Bamboo can be harvested from forest areas or grown quickly elsewhere, and then converted simply without expensive machinery or facilities,” he says. “In this way, it contributes substantially to poverty alleviation and wealth creation.”
Given bamboo’s value in economic and ecological terms, the picture painted by the UNEP report is all the more worrying. But keen horticulturists will spot an apparent contradiction here. Those who’ve followed the recent vogue for cultivating exotic species in their gardens will point out that if it isn’t kept in check, bamboo can cause real problems. “In a lot of places, the people who live with bamboo don’t perceive it as being endangered in any way,” says Kapos. “In fact, a lot of bamboo species are actually very invasive if they’ve been introduced.” So why are so many species endangered? There are two separate issues here, says Ray Townsend, vice president of the British Bamboo Society and arboretum manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens. “Some plants are threatened because they can’t survive in the habitat – they aren’t strong enough or there aren’t enough of them, perhaps. But bamboo can take care of itself – it is strong enough to survive if left alone. What is under threat is its habitat.” It is the physical disturbance that is the threat to bamboo, says Kapos. “When forest goes, it is converted into something else: there isn’t any-where for forest plants such as bamboo to grow if you create a cattle pasture.”
Around the world, bamboo species are routinely protected as part of forest eco-systems in national parks and reserves, but there is next to nothing that protects bamboo in the wild for its own sake. However, some small steps are being taken to address this situation. The UNEP-INBAR report will help conservationists to establish effective measures aimed at protecting valuable wild bamboo species. Towns end, too, sees the UNEP report as an important step forward in promoting the cause of bamboo conservation. “Until now, bamboo has been perceived as a second-class plant.
When you talk about places such as the Amazon, everyone always thinks about the hardwoods. Of course these are significant, but there is a tendency to overlook the plants they are associated with, which are often bamboo species. In many ways, it is the most important plant known to man. I can’t think of another plant that is used so much and is so commercially important in so many countries.” He believes that the most important first step is to get scientists into the field. “We need to go out there, look at these plants and see how they survive and then use that information to conserve them for the future.
Reading Passage 1 has six sections A-F.
Which section contains the following information?
Write the correct letter A-F in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet
NB You may use any letter more than once
- Limited extent of existing research
2. Comparison of bamboo with other plant species
3. Commercial application of bamboo
4. Example of an animal which rely on bamboos for survival
5. Human activity that damaged large areas of bamboo
6. The approaches used to study bamboo
7. Bamboo helps the survival of a range of plants
Use the information in the passage to match the people (listed A-D) with opinions or deeds below. Write the appropriate letters A-d in boxes 8-11 on your answer sheet.
NB you may use any letter more than once
A Ian Redmond
B Valerie Kapos
C Ray Townsend
D Chris Stapleton
8. Destroying bamboo jeopardizes to wildlife.
9. People have very confined knowledge of bamboo.
10. Some people do not think that bamboo is endangered.
11. Bamboo has loads of commercial potentials.
Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 12-13 on your answer sheet
12. What problem does the bamboo’s root system prevent?
13. Which bamboo product is experiencing market expansion
It seems biodiversity has become a buzzword beloved of politicians, conservationists, protesters and scientists alike. But what exactly is it? The Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement to conserve and share the planet’s biological riches, provides a good working definition: biodiversity comprises every form of life, from the smallest microbe to the largest animal or plant, the genes that give them their specific characteristics and the ecosystems of which they are a part.
In October, the World Conservation Union (also known as the IUCN) published its updated Red List of Threatened Species, a roll call of 11,167 creatures facing extinction – 121 more than when the list was last published in 2000. But the new figures almost certainly underestimate the crisis. Some 1.2 million species of animal and 270,000 species of plant have been classified, but the well-being of only a fraction has been assessed. The resources are simply not available. The RJCN reports that 5714 plants are threatened, for example, but admits that only 4 per cent of known plants have been assessed. And, of course, there are thousands of species that we have yet to discover. Many of these could also be facing extinction.
It is important to develop a picture of the diversity of life on Earth now, so that comparisons can be made in the future and trends identified. But it isn’t necessary to observe every single type of organism in an area to get a snapshot of the health of the ecosystem. In many habitats there are species that are particularly susceptible to shifting conditions, and these can be used as indicator species
In the media, it is usually large, charismatic animals such as pandas, elephants, tigers and whales that get all the attention when loss of biodiversity is discussed. However, animals or plants far lower down the food chain are often the ones vital for preserving habitats – in the process saving the skins of those more glamorous species. These are known as keystone species.
By studying the complex feeding relationships within habitats, species can be identified that have a particularly important impact on the environment. For example, the members of the fig family are the staple food for hundreds of different species in many different countries, so important that scientists sometimes call figs “jungle burgers”. A whole range of animals, from tiny insects to birds and large mammals, feed on everything from the tree’s bark and leaves to its flowers and fruits. Many fig species have very specific pollinators. There are several dozen species of fig tree in Costa Rica, and a different type of wasp has evolved to pollinate each one. Chris Lyle of the Natural History Museum in London – who is also involved in the Global Taxonomy Initiative of the Convention on Biological Diversity – points out that if fig trees are affected by global warming, pollution, disease or any other catastrophe, the loss of biodiversity will be enormous.
Similarly, sea otters play a major role in the survival of giant kelp forests along the coasts of California and Alaska. These “marine rainforests” provide a home for a wide range of other species. The kelp itself is the main food of purple and red sea urchins and in turn the urchins are eaten by predators, particularly sea otters. They detach an urchin from the seabed then float to the surface and lie on their backs with the urchin shell on their tummy, smashing it open with a stone before eating the contents. Urchins that are not eaten tend to spend their time in rock crevices to avoid the predators. This allows the kelp to grow – and it can grow many centimetres in a day. As the forests form, bits of kelp break off and fall to the bottom to provide food for the urchins in their crevices. The sea otters thrive hunting for sea urchins in the kelp, and many other fish and invertebrates live among the fronds. The problems start when the sea otter population declines. As large predators they are vulnerable – their numbers are relatively small so disease or human hunters can wipe them out. The result is that the sea urchin population grows unchecked and they roam the sea floor eating young kelp fronds. This tends to keep the kelp very short and stops forests developing, which has a huge impact on biodiversity.
Conversely, keystone species can also make dangerous alien species: they can wreak havoc if they end up in the wrong ecosystem. The cactus moth, whose caterpillar is a voracious eater of prickly pear was introduced to Australia to control the rampant cacti. It was so successful that someone thought it would be a good idea to introduce it to Caribbean islands that had the same problem. It solved the cactus menace, but unfortunately some of the moths have now reached the US mainland – borne on winds and in tourists’ luggage – where they are devastating the native cactus populations of Florida.
Organisations like the Convention on Biological Diversity work with groups such as the UN and with governments and scientists to raise awareness and fund research. A number of major international meetings – including the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg this year – have set targets for governments around the world to slow the loss of biodiversity. And the CITES meeting in Santiago last month added several more names to its list of endangered species for which trade is controlled. Of course, these agreements will prove of limited value if some countries refuse to implement them.
There is cause for optimism, however. There seems to be a growing understanding of the need for sustainable agriculture and sustainable tourism to conserve biodiversity. Problems such as illegal logging are being tackled through sustainable forestry programmes, with the emphasis on minimising the use of rainforest hardwoods in the developed world and on rigorous replanting of whatever trees are harvested. CITES is playing its part by controlling trade in wood from endangered tree species. In the same way, sustainable farming techniques that minimise environmental damage and avoid monoculture
Action at a national level often means investing in public education and awareness. Getting people like you and me involved can be very effective. Australia and many European countries are becoming increasingly efficient at recycling much of their domestic waste, for example, preserving natural resources and reducing the use of fossil fuels. This in turn has a direct effect on biodiversity by minimising pollution, and an indirect effect by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from incinerators and landfill sites. Preserving ecosystems intact for future generations to enjoy is obviously important, but biodiversity is not some kind of optional extra. Variety may be “the spice of life”, but biological variety is also our life-support system.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2 In boxes 14-20 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement is true
FALSE if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if the information is not given in the passage
14 The term “biodiversity” consists of living creatures and environment that they live in.
15 There are species that have not been researched because it’s unnecessary to study all creatures.
16 It is not necessary to investigate all creatures in a certain place.
17 The press more often than not focuses on animals well-known.
18 There is a successful case that cactus moth plays a positive role in the US.
19 Usage of hardwoods is forbidden in some European countries.
20 Agriculture experts advise farmers to plant single crops in the field in terms of sustainable farming
Complete the following summary of the paragraphs of Reading Passage, using no more than two words from the Reading Passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 21-26 on your answer sheet.
Because of the ignorance brought by media, people tend to neglect significant creatures called 21 ………………. .Every creature has diet connections with others, such as 22 ………………. which provide a majority of foods for other species. In some states of America, decline in number of sea otters leads to the boom of 23 ………………. An impressing case is that imported 24 successfully tackles the plant cacti in 25 ………………. However, the operation is needed for the government to increase their financial support in 26 ………………. .
Sunset for the Oil Business
The world is about to run out of oil. Or perhaps not. It depends whom you believe…
Members of the Department Analysis Centre (ODAC) recently met in London and presented technical data that support their grim forecast that the world is perilously close to running out of oil. Leading lights of this moment, including the geologists Colin Campbell, rejected rival views presented by American geological survey and the international energy agency that contradicted their findings. Dr. Campbell even decried the amazing display of ignorance, denial and obfuscation by government, industry and academics on this topic.
So is the oil really running out? The answer is easy: Yes. Nobody seriously disputes the notion that oil is, for all practical purposes, a non-renewable resource that will run out some day, be that years or decades away. The harder question is determining when precisely oil will begin to get scarce. And answering that question involves scaling Hubbert’s peak.
M. King Hubbert, a Shell geologist of legendary status among depletion experts, forecast in 1956 that oil production in the United States would peak in the early 1970s and then slowly decline, in something resembling a bell-shaped curve. At the time, his forecast was controversial, and many rubbished it. After 1970, however, empirical evidence proved him correct: oil production in America did indeed peak and has been in decline ever since.
Dr Hubbert’s analysis drew on the observation that oil production in a new area typically rises quickly at first, as the easiest and cheapest reserves are tapped. Over time, reservoirs age and go into decline, and so lifting oil becomes more expensive. Oil from that area then becomes less competitive in relation to other fuels, or to oil from other areas. As a result, production slows down and usually tapers off and declines. That, he argued, made for a bell-shaped curve.
His successful prediction has emboldened a new generation of geologists to apply his methodology on a global scale. Chief among them are the experts at ODAC, who worry that the global peak in production will come in the next decade. Dr Campbell used to argue that the peak should have come already; he now thinks it is just round the comer. A heavyweight has now joined this gloomy chorus. Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton University argues in a lively new book (“The View from Hubbert’s Peak”) that global oil production could peak as soon as 2004.
That sharply contradicts mainstream thinking. America’s Geological Survey prepared an exhaustive study of oil depletion last year (in part to rebut Dr Campbell’s arguments) that put the peak of production some decades off. The IEA has just weighed in with its new “World Energy Outlook”, which foresees enough oil to comfortably meet demand to 2020 from remaining reserves. Rene Dahan, one of ExxonMobil’s top managers, goes further: with an assurance characteristic of the world’s largest energy company, he insists that the world will be awash in oil for another 70 years.
Who is right? In making sense of these wildly opposing views, it is useful to look back at the pitiful history of oil forecasting. Doomsters have been predicting dry wells since the 1970s, but so far the oil is still gushing. Nearly all the predictions for 2000 made after the 1970s oil shocks were far too pessimistic. America’s Department of Energy thought that oil would reach $150 a barrel (at 2000 prices); even Exxon predicted a price of $ 100.
Michael Lynch of DRI-WEFA, an economic consultancy, is one of the few oil forecasters who has got things generally right. In a new paper, Dr Lynch analyses those historical forecasts. He finds evidence of both bias and recurring errors, which suggests that methodological mistakes (rather than just poor data) were the problem. In particular, he faults forecasters who used Hubbert-style analysis for relying on fixed estimates of how much “ultimately recoverable” oil there really is below ground, in the industry’s jargon: that figure, he insists, is actually a dynamic one, as improvements in infrastructure, knowledge and technology raise the amount of oil which is recoverable.
That points to what will probably determine whether the pessimists or the optimists are right: technological innovation. The first camp tends to be dismissive of claims of forthcoming technological revolutions in such areas as deep-water drilling and enhanced recovery. Dr Deffeyes captures this end-of-technology mindset well. He argues that because the industry has already spent billions on technology development, it makes it difficult to ask today for new technology, as most of the wheels have already been invented.
Yet techno-optimists argue that the technological revolution in oil has only just begun. Average recovery rates (how much of the known oil in a reservoir can actually be brought to the surface) are still only around 30-35%. Industry optimists believe that new techniques on the drawing board today could lift that figure to 50-60% within a decade.
Given the industry’s astonishing track record of innovation, it may be foolish to bet against it. That is the result of adversity: the nationalisations of the 1970s forced Big Oil to develop reserves in expensive, inaccessible places such as the North Sea and Alaska, undermining Dr Hubbert’s assumption that cheap reserves are developed first. The resulting upstream investments have driven down the cost of finding and developing wells over the last two decades from over $20 a barrel to around $6 a barrel. The cost of producing oil has fallen by half, to under $4 a barrel.
Such miracles will not come cheap, however, since much of the world’s oil is now produced in ageing fields that are rapidly declining. The IEA concludes that global oil production need not peak in the next two decades if the necessary investments are made. So how much is necessary? If oil companies are to replace the output lost at those ageing fields and meet the world’s ever-rising demand for oil, the agency reckons they must invest $ 1 trillion in non-OPEC countries over the next decade alone. That’s quite a figure.
Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3 In boxes 27-31 on your answer sheet, write
YES if the statement agrees with the information
NO if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
27 Hubbert has a high-profile reputation amongst ODAC members.
28 Oil is likely to last longer than some other energy sources.
29 The majority of geologists believe that oil will start to run out some time this decade.
30 Over 50 percent of the oil we know about is currently being recovered.
31 History has shown that some of Hubbet’s principles were mistaken.
Complete the notes below
Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 32-35 on your answer sheet.
Many people believed Hubbert’s theory was 32…………….. when it was originall presented.
The recovery of the oil gets more 34 ………………..as the reservoir gets older
When an aild field is 33……….. , it is easy to………………… .
The oil field can’t be as 35…………………… as other area
Look at the following statements (questions 36-40) and the list ofpeople below. Match each statement with correct person, A-E.
Write the correct letter, A-E in boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet.
NB You may use any letter more than once.
36 has found fault in geological research procedure
37 has provided the longest-range forecast regarding oil supply
38 has convinced others that oil production will follow a particular model
39 has accused fellow scientists of refusing to see the truth
40 has expressed doubt over whether improved methods of extracting oil are possible.
List of People
A Colin Campbell
B M. King Hubbert
C Kenneth Deffeyes
D Rene Dahan
E Michael Lynch
IELTS Reading Recent Actual Test 3 – Answer Key
|20||NOT GIVEN||21||Keystone||22||Fig family/ figs|
|23||Sea urchins( urchins)||24||Cactus moth||25||Australia|
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