conservation news and environmental science news.
Arctic sea ice falls to second lowest on record
(09/16/2008) Arctic sea ice retreated to the second lowest level on record but remains about 9 percent above the low set last September, reports the NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Group takes "venture capital" approach to conservation
(09/16/2008) An innovative group is using a venture capital model to save some of the world's most endangered species, while at the same time working to ensure that local communities benefit from conservation efforts. The Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN), an organization based in Los Altos, California, works to protect threatened species by focusing on what it terms "conservation entrepreneurs" -- people who are passionate about saving wildlife and have creative ideas for dong so. After a rigorous review process to identify and select projects that will have the greatest impact on conservation in developing countries, WCN provides the conservationist with fund-raising and back-office support, technology, and access to its network of people and resources.
11 species of monkeys discovered in West African biodiversity hotspot
(09/15/2008) Urgent conservation measures are needed to protect some of the world's most endangered primates from the hunting, logging, and oil palm development in a region that has only recently emerged from a period of civil strife, report researchers writing in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Threatened forest in Kenya home to a diversity of bird life
(09/15/2008) The Tana River forest in coastal Kenya is home to a diverse array of bird species but is increasingly under threat from logging, agricultural expansion, and unsustainable harvesting of some bird species, reports a new study published in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
New rainforest sanctuary in Cameroon already at risk from plantations, hunting
(09/15/2008) The forests of southern Cameroon bordering Gabon are biodiversity-rich and harbor important populations of gorillas, chimpanzees, and elephants. In 1998 the government of Cameroon established the Mengamé Gorilla Sanctuary and in 2002, working in close partnership with the government of Cameroon, the Jane Goodall Institute launched a project to protect habitat and biodiversity in the reserve while creating a connection between conservation and socio-economic improvement in communities bordering the sanctuary. The sanctuary now plays an important role in emerging trans-boundary protected area initiatives.
Teak wood may be improved by greater genetic diversity
(09/15/2008) Molecular genetics is an important tool not only in basic studies of phylogeny, genetic variation, and relatedness among others, but also for managing tropical forest resources that have important commercial value.
Mangrove destruction for fish trade may undermine fishermen in West Africa
(09/15/2008) The harvesting of mangrove forests in West Africa for the smoked fish trade threatens to undermine the primary source of income for the very fishermen who supply fish to the market, reports a study published Monday in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Loss of wildlife is threatening biodiverse forests in northeastern India
(09/15/2008) Logging, agricultural expansion, and hunting of large birds and mammals in the tropical forests of northeastern India may be reducing the capacity of the biologically-rich ecosystem to regenerate itself, report researchers writing in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Regrowing the Amazon rainforest will require help from bats and birds
(09/15/2008) As large tracts of Amazon rainforest are degraded by industrial logging and cleared for cattle pasture and agriculture, other deforested areas are abandoned and being reclaimed by forest. Understanding this recolonization of degraded forest lands by pioneer species will critical to efforts to rehabilitate restore forests around the world.
Primate conservation may enhance food availability to humans
(09/15/2008) Primate conservation may have the unintended benefit of enhancing food availability to humans reports a study led by African scientists.
Migratory waterbird populations in decline in Europe
(09/15/2008) 41 percent of 522 migratory waterbird populations on the routes across Africa and Eurasia show decreasing trends, reports a new study released at the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement meeting in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Rwanda and Burundi agree to protect rare forest area
(09/15/2008) Rwanda and Burundi have agreed to protect a large tract of tropical mountain forest that is home to chimpanzees, rare owl-faced monkeys, and other wildlife.
Earth already committed to 2.4-degree C rise from climate change
(09/15/2008) As of 2005 the Earth was already committed to rise of global mean temperatures by 2.4°C (4.3°F), concludes a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The conclusion is significant because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that a rise in global temperature by 1 to 3°C will lead to catastrophic consequences, including “widespread loss of biodiversity, widespread deglaciation of the Greenland Ice Sheet, and a major reduction of area and volume of Hindu-Kush-Himalaya-Tibetan glaciers, which provide the head-waters for most major river systems of Asia.” These glaciers, predicted to shrink considerably in the next few decades, provide food and water to over two billion people.
Commercial bushmeat trade is devastating wildlife
(09/15/2008) Commercial killing of rainforest wildlife is putting biodiversity at risk and reducing sources of protein for rural populations, warns a new report from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB).
Malaysian palm oil industry accused of child slavery by the Indonesian government
(09/15/2008) Indonesia's Commission for Child Protection has accused Malaysia's oil palm planters of enslaving migrant workers and their children at plantations in the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, reports The Jakarta Post. Arist Merdeka Sirait, secretary general of the commission, told the newspaper that a fact-finding team sent to Sabah discovered "tens of thousands of Indonesian migrant workers and their children had been 'systematically enslaved,'" by Malaysian plantation owners.
Rainforest conversion to oil palm causes 83% of wildlife to disappear
(09/15/2008) Conversion of primary rainforest to an oil palm plantation results in a loss of more than 80 percent of species, reports a new comprehensive review of the impacts of growing palm oil production. The research is published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
Europe cuts biofuel targets to 4% in 2015, 6% in 2020
(09/12/2008) The E.U. voted to relax biofuels targets following widespread criticism of their social, economic, and environmental impacts. Thursday the European Parliament's Industry and Energy Committee said it would push a plan calling for a 5 percent share of renewables in transport fuel by 2015 and a 10 percent target by 2020, a reduction from the 20 percent target set forth in March 2007. The plan effectively cuts targets for biofuels produced from conventional feedstocks to four percent in 2015 and six percent in 2020.
Prince Charles says hedge funds could save rainforests
(09/11/2008) Prince Charles renewed his call to protect rainforests for the services they provide humanity. Speaking Wednesday at a black-tie dinner in London, Charles compared the need to protect forests to fighting a war.
Thought-to-be-extinct frog rediscovered in Australia
(09/11/2008) Scientists have rediscovered a thought-to-be-extinct species of frog in a creek in Northern Australia. The find offers hope that some species have survived a fungal epidemic that has devastated the amphibians of Queensland.
Study confirms strong link between CO2 and climate over 70,000 years
(09/11/2008) Analysis of ice core samples from Greenland show a strong correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and abrupt changes in climate, reports a paper published in Science.
Whaling Commission issues media blackout on discussions to lift whale killing ban
(09/11/2008) The survival of whales is perhaps the most successful conservation story of the 20th century. Since a moratorium on commercial hunting, some whale species have staged dramatic recoveries. In May it was announced that the humpback whale population has climbed from 1,500 to 20,000 individuals, resulting in it being "downlisted" from vulnerable to least concern, according to the IUCN's Red List. Others, like the blue whale, appear to have stable populations but recovery remains slow.
Old growth forests are giant carbon sinks, helping offset emissions
(09/11/2008) Old growth forests are important carbon sinks that help global warming, reports a study published in the journal Nature. The results run counter to claims by the forestry industry that old growth forests are carbon neutral or even net emitters of carbon dioxide.
Nearly 40 percent of America’s freshwater fish in danger
(09/10/2008) The most comprehensive study of America’s freshwater fish in twenty years has revealed that nearly 40 percent are threatened with extinction.
Rare okapi photographed for the first time in Congo park
(09/10/2008) A camera trap has captured the first-ever photo of an okapi in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. The picture shows that the elusive forest giraffe has managed to survive more than a decade of war in and around the park.
Falling palm oil price makes palm biodiesel viable, may offer target for NGOs
(09/10/2008) Plunging palm oil prices are increasing its attractiveness as a biofuel feedstock and thereby helping buoy demand for the oilseed, reports Reuters.
Big computer makers pitch energy efficiency to sell more services, equipment
(09/09/2008) Tech giants are using high power costs to market new energy efficiency computers to large corporate data centers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Malaysia pushes Borneo rainforest logging by deposing tribal leaders
(09/09/2008) The Malaysian government is attempting to quell indigenous opposition to logging in the rainforests of Borneo by deposing community leaders and replacing them with timber company stakeholders, reports an environmental group.
Drug use blamed as vulture population crashes 99% in India and Pakistan
(09/09/2008) Captive breeding programs are not large enough to ensure the oriental white-rumped vulture’s survival, reports a new study in Biological Conservation.
NASA: Sea ice melt opens the Northwest and Northeast Passage
(09/09/2008) An image released by NASA shows that Arctic sea ice has retreated to the point where both the Northwest Passage around North America and the Northern Sea Route around Russia are open simultaneously. The occurrence marks the first time on record that both passages have been open.
Nobu offers critically-endangered species to sushi diners
(09/08/2008) Nobu, a pricey and trendy sushi restaurant with locations around the world, regularly serves critically-endangered Northern bluefin tuna to its clientele, reveals an investigation by the environmental group Greenpeace.
Small-scale fisheries are "best hope" for sustainability in developing world
(09/08/2008) Fish stocks are declining globally. While the consumer in the industrial world has yet to feel the full impact of this decline, those in the developing world know it well. Local small-scale fishermen are catching less fish to feed growing populations. Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project believes the hope for sustainable seafood lies in these very fisheries.
Rare monkeys double in number in China but remain under threat
(09/08/2008) China's population of the gray snub-nosed monkey, a critically-endangered species endemic to Guizhou Province in southwestern China, has more than doubled in the wild since conservation measures were implemented in 1979, reports Chinese state media.
Moose Mission in New York's Adirondacks
(09/05/2008) Bushwhacking our way through nearly impenetrable bogs and blow down in the central woods of the Adirondacks in northern New York, I am wondering…how can a MOOSE move through this stuff? Weighing nearly 1400 pounds and standing six to seven feet tall, moose favor the dense mixed forests that surround the lakes and ponds of the Adirondacks, the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. About 6 million acres of boreal forests, mountains, and lakes in northern New York are within the boundaries of the Adirondacks, half of which are public lands, the other half are private. The relatively cool climate and available plants on the many riparian banks of the area make for a moose mecca.
Obama talks science: ocean health, water scarcity, climate change, and more
(09/05/2008) Presidential nominee Barack Obama recently answered fourteen science-related questions for the organization Science Debate 2008. The questions covered a wide-variety of topics, including the importance of innovation, science and math education, energy policies, national security and biosecurity, genetics research, stem cells, space exploration, health, support for research and restoring scientific integrity in the Whitehouse. Below are brief descriptions of his answers on three topics: climate change, water scarcity, and the health of marine ecosystems. Republican presidential nominee John McCain has also been sent the same fourteen questions, so far he has not responded.
Cameroon and Nigeria to protect world's rarest gorilla
(09/05/2008) Cameroon and Nigeria have agreed to protect the the Cross River gorilla, world's most endangered gorilla, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped broker the deal.
Camera traps capture photos of predators in Myanmar
(09/04/2008) Myanmar's dense northern wild lands, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society have painstakingly gathered a bank of valuable data on the country's populations of tigers and other smaller, lesser known carnivores (see photo attachments). These findings will help in the formulation of conservation strategies for the country's wildlife.
Sea level rise likely limited to 2-6 feet by 2100
(09/04/2008) Global sea level rise is unlikely to exceed 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) by the end of century argues a new study published in the journal Science.
Ghana becomes first country to sign sustainable timber pact with the E.U.
(09/04/2008) The European Union has signed a sustainable forestry deal with Ghana that would stop imports of illegally-harvested timber from the West African nation, according to a statement released by the European Forest Institute. The agreement comes under the European Commission's 2003 Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which seeks to address illicit timber imports. The regulation requires chain-of-custody documentation for timber to be imported into the E.U.
Photo: commonly-kept gecko was thought to be extinct in the wild
(09/04/2008) The Crested Gecko is endemic to South Province, New Caledonia in the South Pacific. While the species is widely kept in the pet trade, the species was long believed extinct in the wild until it was rediscovered in 1994. It is now known to have three distinct populations and its conservation status is currently being evaluated by the IUCN. Trade in wild-caught individuals is presently banned.
Powerful hurricanes may be getting stronger due to warmer seas
(09/03/2008) Warming climate is causing the strongest hurricanes to strengthen and more moderate storms to stay the same, claims a new study published in Nature. However the data on which research is based is already facing fierce criticism.
Canada's ice shelves lost 23% of their area this summer
(09/03/2008) A 19-square-mile (50 sq km) chuck of ice shelf broke off from Canada's Ellesmere Island in the northern Arctic, reports the Associated Press. The Manhattan-sized ice shelf is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean. It is the largest of more than 83 sq mi (214 sq km) of ice shelf that has broken up in the Canadian Arctic this year.
For Australian beetles bigger is better; while American beetles don't care about size
(09/03/2008) Researchers have discovered a dung beetle that may be evolving into separate species in a few decades rather than thousands or millions of years. Separated geographically, sub-populations of the species show large differences in the size of their genitalia and horns. Such distinctions could create new species in a short time, because beetles with largely different genitalia cannot successfully mate.
Independent of climate, forest cover in southern Amazon may fall to 20% by 2016
(09/03/2008) Forest cover in the "Arc of Deforestation" of southern Amazonia will decline to around 20 percent 2016 due to continued logging and conversion of forests for cattle pasture and soy farms, report researchers writing in the journal Environmental Conservation. Analyzing high resolution satellite data from 1984 through 2004 for the Alta Floresta region in northern Mato Grosso, Fernanda Michalski, Carlos Peres and Iain Lake of the University of East Anglia found that forest cover declined from from 91.1 percent to 41.7 percent between 1984 and 2004. They note that while the deforestation rate has slowed to around 2 percent per year since peaking at more than 8 percent annually in late 1980s to mid-1990s, renewed expansion of road networks will enable loggers to increasingly exploit remaining forests, leading to degradation and likely eventual conversion for agricultural use. Overall Michalski and colleagues forecast that forest cover in Alta Floresta will fall to 21 percent by 2016, a decline of 77 percent since 1984.
Did prehistoric farmers drive early global warming?
(09/03/2008) In 2003 William Ruddiman put forth a controversial theory: 7,000 years ago the rise of agriculture spawned large-scale climatic changes. According to Ruddiman, the felling of forests for fields throughout Europe and Asia caused a rise in carbon dioxide, while the flooded fields for rice released methane gas. This combination of large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane entering the atmosphere caused the globe to warm, preventing the planet from entering another ice age.
Whale meat is back on the menu in Iceland
(09/02/2008) Whale meat is back at restaurants and food markets in Iceland, reports the WALL STREET JOURNAL.
Republicans backtrack, call for end to ethanol requirements in gas
(09/02/2008) Meeting at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, Republicans Monday called for an end to a requirement that gasoline contain a set amount of ethanol, reports Reuters.
Indonesian raids on tiger traffickers yielding arrests in Sumatra
(09/02/2008) A raid on illegal tiger traders in Indonesia resulted in four arrests in Sumatra, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The arrests come under a new crack-down by Indonesian authorities on the sales of tiger parts. 10 traffickers have been arrested in the past 3 months.
When in season, wolves choose salmon over deer
(09/02/2008) The popular image of hunting wolves is a pack bearing down on a deer, working in concert to make the kill. However, new research has discovered that when available, wolves largely forgo hoofed mammals for salmon.
Scientist forecast 4 Atlantic hurricanes in September
(09/02/2008) Prominent hurricane researchers are forecasting five tropical storms in the Atlantic for September, including four hurricanes. Two of these are expected to be "major" — category 3 or greater. Retired Colorado State University climatologist William Gray and Philip J. Klotzbach, who has taken over Gray's role as lead hurricane forecaster, estimate that Atlantic storms in September will be twice as active as normal.
Researchers devise new comparison of mass extinction events
(09/02/2008) Researchers have created a new way to compare historical mass extinction events. The scoring system, presented in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, works by multiplying the number of taxa — species, genera, and families — that went extinct by the inverse of the time it took to produce a measure dubbed "greatness", which represents the magnitude of the event. Using the system, Celal Sengor and colleagues from Istanbul Teknik Universitesi of Turkey rank the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) event — when the dinosaurs were extinguished in a flash by an asteroid strike or mass oceanic poisoning by a spasm of volcanic activity — as the greatest mass extinction in history. The Permian, which featured a greater loss of species (90-95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species) but played out over a longer period to time some 250 million years ago, ranks third after the Silurian, which occurred around 440 million years ago.
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