conservation news and environmental science news.
Sea ice extent falls to second lowest on record
(08/27/2008) Arctic sea ice extent presently stands at it second-lowest level on record and could set a new low in coming weeks, reports the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
Biofuels 200 times more expensive than forest conservation for global warming mitigation
(08/27/2008) The British government should end subsidies for biofuels and instead use the funds to slow destruction of rainforests and tropical peatlands argues a new report issued by a U.K.-based think tank. The study, titled "The Root of the Matter" and published by Policy Exchange, says that "avoided deforestation" would be a more cost-effective way to address climate change, since land use change generates more emissions than the entire global transport sector and offers ancillary benefits including important ecosystem services.
Baltic cod are shrinking due to overfishing
(08/26/2008) By comparing Neolithic cod with contemporary cod, researchers have discovered that the species has evolved over a relatively short period due to overexploitation by humans. According to a paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, contemporary cod attain adulthood earlier and are generally smaller than their ancestors.
Haze risk returns as fires increase in Indonesia
(08/26/2008) The number of forest fires burning in Indonesia is increasing, raising concerns for the potential return of choking haze to the region.
The extinction of the baiji a 'wake-up call' to conserve vaquita and other cetaceans
(08/25/2008) In December of 2006 an expedition spent six weeks surveying the Yangtze River in China for one of the world's rarest cetaceans, the baiji. Also known as 'The Goddess of the Yangtze' the shy river-dolphin had roamed the river for millions of years locating fish with echolocation. The survey came back empty-handed without a spotting a single dolphin. Dr. Jay Barlow, a member of the surveying team, described his emotions on the expedition's findings in an interview with Mongabay.com: "I was stunned. I knew the species was in trouble, but I did not think they were already gone. We really had not seen the extinction of a large mammal species in 50 years, so we grew complacent."
Climate change may increase global conflict
(08/25/2008) The signs of a warming world are everywhere: birds are migrating with changing temperatures; coral reefs are dying out due to bleaching; warmer winters are allowing beetles to devour Canadian forests; and the Northwest Passage has opened for the second year in a row. While scientists work to understand how climate change is affecting the worldÕs ecosystems, others are attempting to predict how societies may respond. Jurgen Scheffran, a scientist with the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois, believes a warmer world will lead to an increase in armed conflicts. He concludes that societies stressed by increased competition for natural resources are more likely to engage in warfare.
How do wind turbines kill bats?
(08/25/2008) Numerous studies have shown that migratory bats are undergoing large fatalities due to wind turbines. Far more bats die due to wind turbines than birds, though they generally receive less attention. Now, researchers writing in Current Biology believe they know why bats are more susceptible to wind turbine fatalities.
Malaysia targets Africa and the Amazon for oil palm expansion
(08/25/2008) Facing land scarcity at home and environmental complaints, Malaysian palm oil producers should look overseas to expand operations, a high-ranking Malaysian agricultural minister said Monday.
Komodo dragon conservation efforts prove controversial in Indonesia
(08/25/2008) Efforts to conserve the world's largest lizard — the Komodo dragon — are proving controversial, and potentially dangerous to villagers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Google Earth reveals cattle have a built-in compass
(08/25/2008) Cattle, along with grazing deer, tend to align themselves with the Earth's magnetic field lines, in a north-south direction, report researchers writing in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The finding suggests that cows seem to have a built-in magnetic compass.
Malaysian logging scandal may delay trade negotiations with the E.U.
(08/25/2008) Sarawak's Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, has been linked to a timber trade scheme involving illegal imports of Indonesian logs and which were then re-exported as Malaysian timber to other countries, including China, Taiwan, and Japan, reports the Indonesian newspaper Tribun Pontianak. An environmental group is using the scandal as the basis for a request for the E.U. to delay timber trade talks with Malaysia.
New bird species discovered in rainforest of Gabon
(08/23/2008) DNA analysis has revealed a previously unknown species of bird in the Central African country of Gabon.
Malaysia's rainforest logging plan may proceed despite risk to water supplies
(08/22/2008) Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Kedah, is pushing ahead with a plan to log Ulu Muda forest reserve despite concerns that logging could hurt water supplies and threaten biodiversity.
NASA images reveal two massive glaciers breaking apart in Greenland
(08/22/2008) Two of Greenland's largest glaciers are breaking up report researchers monitoring NASA satellite images.
DNA study reveals new 1,000-pound grouper species
(08/21/2008) DNA analysis has revealed that a 1,000-pound grouper found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is actually two different species.
STRI goes carbon neutral as Panama indigenous community to see carbon payments from forest conservation
(08/21/2008) The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Panama-based branch of the Smithsonian Institution, will offset its carbon dioxide emissions by working with an indigenous community to conserve forests and reforest degraded lands with native tree species. The agreement was announced Sunday, August 17, 2008.
Presidential candidate John McCain's love-hate relationship with bears
(08/21/2008) Senator John McCain has frequently cited an earmark to a bill proving funds for a study of grizzly bears in Montana as an example of the worst pork-and-barrel spending in Washington. The study was included in an ad for McCain entitled "Outrageous" during the primaries. However, according to FactCheck.org, Senator McCain voted for the earmark he now derides.
French birds on the move due to climate change—just not fast enough
(08/21/2008) French ornithologists have discovered, year by year, that French birds are moving north due to the affects of climate change. A recent study of such movements in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B concludes that the birds are not moving fast enough, leading to concern among conservationists.
In Peru, a showdown between the president and tribes over mining and drilling in the Amazon
(08/21/2008) In Peru indigenous rights groups and congressional leaders are pairing up against President Alan Garcia to revoke a controversial land law passed last week, reports Reuters.
Biofuel production in Brazil may not hurt Amazon, food supply
(08/21/2008) Biofuel production in Brazil will not affect food production or the Amazon rainforest in coming years, claimed a study released Tuesday by an economist in Sao Paulo.
Brazil may allow mining on indigenous lands in the Amazon
(08/21/2008) Lawmakers in Brazil are debating whether to allow mining companies to partner with indigenous groups to exploit mineral deposits deep in the Amazon rainforest, reports Bloomberg.
There is enough water for everyone provided it is well-managed and distributed
(08/21/2008) An increasingly-popular view of our future is an exponentially thirsty world where billions lack access to fresh water, leading to widespread famine and wars over water instead of oil. If this sounds like science fiction, the UN has predicted that by 2050 seven billion people will suffer from water scarcity. Putting that number in perspective: today's entire global population is not yet seven billion people.
When the magpie looks in a mirror, it sees itself
(08/20/2008) Unlike Narcissus of Greek mythology--who upon seeing his reflection in water jumped in thinking it was another--magpies have proven they can recognize their own reflections. Until now, only a small number of primates (chimpanzees, pygmy chimps, and orangutans) have displayed this ability, making the magpie the first bird shown to recognize itself.
Mangrove species flourishes in the United Arab Emirates after a century of local extinction
(08/20/2008) A long-absent mangrove species is flowering again in the United Arab Emirates a hundred years since its disappearance. Seeds of the rhizophora mucronata were brought from Pakistan and planted along the coast. The project was a joint venture between the United Arab Emirate's (UAE) Department of President's Affairs and the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.
Brazil to establish oil palm plantations on degraded Amazon rainforest lands
(08/20/2008) Brazil will allow the establishment of oil palm plantations on degraded lands in the Amazon rainforest under a agreement signed between Brazil's ministers of agriculture and the environment, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
Google, Australia give big boost to geothermal power production
(08/20/2008) Geothermal energy got a big boost this week with Google and the Australian government announcing multi-million initiatives that make use of Earth's heat as a clean and renewable source of power.
Bigfoot "discovery" looks to be a hoax
(08/18/2008) A much-hyped press conference claiming to present evidence of the existence of Bigfoot offered little in the way of proof but a lot of shameless self-promotion by the "discoverers".
The long-ignored ocean emergency and what can be done to address it
(08/18/2008) This year has been full of bad news regarding marine ecosystems: one-third of coral species threatened with extinction, dead-zones spread to 415 sites, half of U.S. reefs in fair or bad condition, increase in ocean acidification, tuna and shark populations collapsing, and only four percent of ocean considered pristine. Jeremy Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of California, San Diego, synthesizes such reports and others into a new paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Naional Academy of Sciences, that boldly lays out the scope of the oceanic emergency and what urgently needs to be done.
Coal burning may make food supplies toxic
(08/18/2008) Coal burning is contaminating the Arctic, and may be affecting human health and polar ecosystems, warn scientists writing in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New tree species discovered in Amazon biodiversity hotspot
(08/17/2008) I was walking down the Anaconda Trail at the Madre Selva Biological Station with botanist Rodolfo Vasquez when he suddenly stopped, stared at the bark of a 120-foot tree, and started searching the ground. Odd behavior? Perhaps, but when you're with Peru's top field botanist, odd behavior is forgivable, since it means that something interesting is probably afoot.
Markets could save rainforests: an interview with Andrew Mitchell
(08/17/2008) Markets may soon value rainforests as living entities rather than for just the commodities produced when they are cut down, said a tropical forest researcher speaking in June at a conservation biology conference in the South American country of Suriname. Andrew Mitchell, founder and director of the London-based Global Canopy Program (GCP), said he is encouraged by signs that investors are beginning to look at the value of services afforded by healthy forests.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon won't increase significantly for 2008
(08/15/2008) Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Thursday that Amazon deforestation for the 2007-2008 year will likely be comparable to the prior year. The announcement marks an abrupt turn-around for the Brazilian government which in April said that forest destruction was expected to increase for the first time since 2004.
Indonesia's Riau bans destruction of rainforests and peatlands for palm oil
(08/15/2008) The Indonesian province of Riau on the island of Sumatra has pledged to stop destruction of its forests and carbon-rich peatlands in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50 percent by 2009.
Algae could yield 30 times more biofuel than soybeans, while cleaning the environment
(08/15/2008) Algae could be used as a biofuel while simultaneously cleaning up the environment, report researchers at the University of Virginia.
PG&E will build the world's largest solar power plant
(08/15/2008) California electricity producer PG&E Thursday announced a plan to build two giant solar photovoltaic power plants that will cover 12.5 square miles and have a peak generating capacity of 800 megawatts.
Marine 'dead zones' double every decade
(08/14/2008) Dead zones have spread across the ocean at alarming rates. Currently 415 sites, usually along coastlines, have shown signs of seasonal to persistent hypoxia—a severe lack of oxygen. In a new essay in Science, researchers Robert Diaz and Rutger Rosenberg argue that marine dead zones have "become a major worldwide environmental problem". Marine dead zones now occupy a portion of the ocean equal to that of the United Kingdom and continue to grow, doubling every decade since the 1960s and showing no sign of abating.
Smoke from Amazon fires reduces local rainfall
(08/14/2008) Smoke released by fires set to clear the Amazon rainforest inhibit the formation of clouds, thereby reducing rainfall, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The study provides clues on how aerosols from human activity influence cloud cover and ultimately affect climate.
High mineral prices drive rainforest destruction
(08/13/2008) The surging price of minerals is contributing to degradation and destruction of rainforests worldwide, warns a researcher writing in the current issue of New Scientist.
No scientists necessary: Bush administration's new plans regarding endangered species
(08/13/2008) I would have thought it difficult after eight years to still be surprised by any presidential administration, but the Bush administration has proven unique. After years of delisting endangered species, refusing to list others, and slowly watering down the landmark Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration has finally come out and said it: scientists are superfluous when it comes to saving endangered species. Despite eight years of belittling scientists, I was still surprised they would insult them so blatantly.
Investors seek profit from conserving rainforest biodiversity
(08/13/2008) An investment firm has launched the first tropical biodiversity credits scheme. New Forests, a Sydney, Australia-based company, has established the Malua Wildlife Habitat Conservation Bank in Malaysia as an attempt to monetize rainforest conservation. The "Malua BioBank" will use an investment from a private equity fund to restore and protect 34,000 hectares (80,000 acres) of formerly logged forest that serves as a buffer between biologically-rich forest reserve and a sea of oil palm plantations. The conservation effort will generate "Biodiversity Conservation Certificates", the sales of which will endow a perpetual conservation trust and produce a return on investment for the Sabah Government and the private equity fund.
How sustainable is your canned tuna? It depends on the retailer
(08/13/2008) To aid concerned tuna-lovers, Greenpeace has ranked eight of the top canned tuna retailers in order from most sustainable to least. Canned tuna from John West, the biggest retailer of tuna in the UK, proves to be the worst of the lot, whereas Sainsbury's is the most environmentally-friendly. In a press release Greenpeace said that Sainsbury's is "the only tinned tuna brand that is fished using sustainable methods".
Carbon tax will ease transition to sensible climate policy
(08/13/2008) The management of carbon dioxide and the climate represent both an economic development challenge and the ecological problem of the next hundred years. Energy use, economic success and carbon dioxide emissions are, currently, intertwined. A carbon market that represents the true cost of energy and the disposal of our waste products in the environment is a potential long-term policy mechanism for carbon dioxide management. However, the strong interconnection between carbon dioxide emissions and economic success distinguishes the carbon market from other environmental markets used to control pollution. Therefore evolution to that solution is not straightforward; there are a series of necessary steps needed to develop a market.
Biologists attacked in Costa Rica
(08/12/2008) Two ornithologists were attacked by a machete-weilding group while surveying birds in Costa Rica, reports National Geographic.
Greenpeace drops boulders on sea floor to disrupt bottom trawling
(08/12/2008) Greenpeace dropped hundreds of tons of granite boulders on the sea floor in the German North Sea in order to stop bottom trawling in an area that is designated as a 'Special Area of Conservation' by the EU.
Google Earth now reveals damage caused by the paper industry
(08/12/2008) A new web site uses Google Maps to provide information on the pulp and paper industry.
Oil development could destroy the most biodiverse part of the Amazon
(08/12/2008) 688,000 square kilometers (170 million acres) of the western Amazon is under concession for oil and gas development, according to a new study published in the August 13 edition of the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The results suggest the region, which is considered by scientists to be the most biodiverse on the planet and is home to some of the world's last uncontacted indigenous groups, is at great risk of environmental degradation.
"Turtle carbon" could help protect rainforests and save endangered sea turtles
(08/12/2008) Using carbon credits to promote rainforest conservation could help protect endangered sea turtles in some parts of the world, argues a carbon finance expert.
Long-term memory may help elephants adapt to climate change
(08/11/2008) Long-term memory may be key to helping elephants survive future challenges, including climate change, reports a new study published in The Royal Society's Biology Letters.
Account of 18th century Amazon adventurer to be published for the first time
(08/11/2008) After establishing his ingenious classification system in 1735, Carl Linnaeus, the greatest naturalist of his era, sent young and eager followers to all parts of the world to help him in the goal of collecting and cataloguing the world's species. It was a project unlike any before; Swedish naturalists, often referred to as Linnaeus's apostles, roamed as far as Japan, South America, Australia, and the Arctic with the same goal in mind—describing species according to Linnaeus's system.
Humans - not climate - drove extinction of giant Tasmanian animals
(08/11/2008) Humans — not climate change — were responsible for the mass extinction of Australia's megafauna, according to a new study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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