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Local News Summary of March, 14th

  • University of Basel prepares for long-term experiment in the forest
  • Double surface for young technology-oriented entrepreneurs at Basel Technology Park
  • How to be an untrained bad cop with the help of an app

University of Basel prepares for long-term experiment in the forest

A unique long-term experiment about the consequences of climate change is to be carried out in the Baselland Jura near Hölstein. A team from the University of Basel will observe 3.7 acres of forest over the next twenty years and will simulate a drought with the help of a rain shelter.

Ecological investigative programmes usually run for between three to five years, but trees grow very slowly – copper beech, for example, can reach an age of 300 years. In Hölstein, a team of researchers found a karst (topography) hillcrest that is rich in species, where no water infiltrates from the outside and where ground water is far away.

The team, led by professor Ansgar Kahmen, wants to investigate how local tree species react to dry spells and whether grown trees can adapt their metabolic processes. It is especially relevant whether the forest is still capable of saving large amounts of carbon in the wood and ground in high temperature and low amounts of rain.

A crane above the trees

On Tuesday, the most visible element of the experiment was installed: a 50-metre high crane in the middle of the area measuring 100x100 metres. The crane will be used by researchers to reach the treetops, where they can observe the leaves and conduct further experiments. The 50-metre long arm of the crane will be installed on Wednesday by helicopter.

In late 2019, a rain shelter will be installed – after that, the actual long-term experiment can start. It is like a giant winter garden made of plastic glass plates made of aluminium, about two metres above the ground; tree trunks extend from this. The roof plates can be opened by an engine if need be.

In the experiment, around half of the rainfall will not reach the ground; the caught water will be drained away. A foil put into the soil one-metre deep separates the dry test-ground from the natural comparative ground. Referential data will be measured at the top of the crane.

Storms, pigs, and mice

A total of 180 tree trunks will be equipped with measuring tapes to obtain data about growth, and 30-metre high net funnels will measure the loss of leaves which bring CO2 into the soil. The fungus-web in the forest soil, which is fundamental for trees, will also be measured. With the help of grating bridges, any potential damage caused by the steps of researchers can be avoided.

In order to protect the diverse installations from vandals, the test area will be fenced off by a two-metre high fence. Although it is an unnatural defence, the researchers have also put it in place to provide some protection for the young trees which are at risk from being eaten by deer.

The cables of the expensive electronic devices must also be protected from mice: The fence also keeps away foxes, who hunt for mice. There is however no way of protecting the area from storms: Storm Burglind felled 16 massive trees in the area.

Double surface for young technology-oriented entrepreneurs at Basel Technology Park

New premises with space for labs, offices, and meeting rooms have been officially opened at the Basel Technology Park.

With 3,000 square metres of additional space, the surface has almost doubled. The extension consists of twelve new biology and two chemistry labs. A total of 34 new offices and additional community rooms such as meeting rooms, a kitchen, or rooms for devices and washing are also available. The entire surface of the technology park Basel is around 6,400 square metres.

It is the second time since 2014 that the technology park has been extended. The existing space with 23 tenants is almost fully booked. The ongoing request for labs and offices in Basel has ignited the Grand Council and the cantonal government of Basel-Stadt to give their consent to another extension.

How to be an untrained bad cop with the help of an app

Honestly, who would not want the chance to be a cop at least once and give someone a fine they deserve? However, in cases where there is an urge to issue a fine for a simple annoyance, the police lack permission.

If only there were fines in principle for drivers who blocked the left lane of the motorway by doing a speed of 80 km/h, or for those few aggressive eco-cyclists who refuse to obey traffic regulations. Those who notoriously park their cars in a space reserved for disabled people or in front of a garage entry also belong to this category. To help people deal with such situations, an app has been developed which transforms ordinary «civilians» into a real policeman. For now, however, it is only available in England and for our German neighbours.

Every smartphone owner is a potential 007 agent

The «Car Park Management» company from the UK has developed the app i-Ticket which enables a user to report traffic offenders. First, the user takes a picture of the offending car, notes the number plate, and then uploads the data. And then they wait until the reward money comes in. Every self-defined cop can earn money with it: a grand sum of ten British pounds. As soon as the offender has paid his fine, the person who reported them starts to cash in. For this reporting activity, you can only earn real money in England – thank God, you might say.