Image: Micael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons.
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Bark I

Image: Micael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Micael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons.

As we try to draw a veil over some aspects of 2010 there are still ripples surrounding the headline-grabbing oil pollution event resulting from the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Quite apart from the human cost – newspaper stories seem quickly to forget that 11 workers were killed in the explosion – it is important with such ecological disasters to find environmentally sensitive ways to deal with them. A novel approach to dealing with such ‘blow-outs’ comes from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), which employs a new kind of vacuum cleaner that blows bark or other absorbent material onto oil spills, and then sucks the material up again. Apparently, this device is four times more efficient in cleaning up after oil accidents than conventional techniques. And in one of the year’s more memorable quotes, Silje Rabben (one of the cleaner’s developers) says, ‘Naturally, there is a lot of focus on oil spills and cleanup work in the Gulf of Mexico… We just have to jump in’. Which development follows close on the heels of another Norwegian organisation – Kallak Torvstrøfabrikk – who have been experimenting with peat moss for cleaning up oil spills. So, and mainly for the benefit of Mr Obama and his presidential advisors, this UK-based column is pleased to advise that BP does not stand for British Petroleum, but Bark (or Bryophyte) Palliative! 

Nigel Chaffey

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that international plant science journal for almost 10 years. As a freelance plant science communicator I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Plant Cuttings [] (and formerly at Botany One []). In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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