conservation news and environmental science news.
Birds face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought
(07/14/2008) Birds may face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought, says a bird ecology and conservation expert from Stanford University. Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and head of the world's largest tropical bird radio tracking project, estimates that 15 percent of world's 10,000 bird species will go extinct or be committed to extinction by 2100 if necessary conservation measures are not taken. While birds are one of the least threatened of any major group of organisms, Sekercioglu believes that worst-case climate change, habitat loss, and other factors could conspire to double this proportion by the end of the century. As dire as this sounds, Sekercioglu says that many threatened birds are rarer than we think and nearly 80 percent of land birds predicted to go extinct from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction, suggesting that species loss may be far worse than previously imagined. At particular risk are marine species and specialists in mountain habitats.
Wal-Mart to ban sales of wood products from threatened rainforests
(07/14/2008) Wal-Mart, America's biggest retailer, has joined an initiative to conserve the world's most valuable and threatened forests.
Tasmanian devil reproduction adapts to devastating, contagious cancer
(07/14/2008) Tragic circumstances have led to some astounding behvaioral changes in Tasmanian devils. A contagious form of face cancer has engulfed the population, causing the species to be listed as endangered in May. The cancer, which is characterized by large facial tumors, often leads to death by starvation. Casualty rates for infected areas are nearly 90 percent. However, a new study shows that the Tasmanian devils are not taking the disease lying down. The devils, which usually wait until two years for sexual maturity, have begun to breed within their first year of life.
Tiny lemur species discovered in Madagascar
(07/14/2008) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of mouse lemur on the island of Madagascar. The find brings the global number of mouse lemurs to 16.
Biofuels, food demand may doom tropical forests
(07/14/2008) Rising demand for fuel, food, and wood products will take a heavy toll on tropical forests, warns a new report released by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
Warming will trigger cycle of increased energy use, heat waves in California
(07/11/2008) As the 21st century progresses, major cities in heavily air-conditioned California can expect more frequent extreme-heat events caused by climate change.
$4 gas translates to fewer driving deaths
(07/11/2008) Rising gas prices have trigger a drop in traffic deaths as motorists drive less and slow down, reports a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Environmentalists protest proposed logging of Malaysian forest reserve
(07/10/2008) Nineteen environmental groups launched a protest against a Malaysian state government plan to log Hulu Muda forest reserve, reports Bernama.
Breakthrough in solar energy: ten times more effective solar power may be available in three years
(07/10/2008) The breakthrough scientists have been waiting for to make solar power cheaper, more efficient--and therefore a more effective replacement for traditional energy sources--has been made by a group of MIT researchers.
1/3 of corals face extinction
(07/10/2008) Nearly one-third of reef-building corals are vulnerable to extinction, according to an assessment of 845 species of coral. Rising temperatures, increased incidence of disease, and human disturbance are driving the trend.
Pine beetles attack Canada, boosting GHG emissions
(07/10/2008) The mountain pine beetle, a small tree-devouring insect, has deforested an area of British Columbia the size of Louisiana — over 130,000 square kilometers. The 5 millimeter insect is a perfect tree-destroying machine. The beetles bore through the tree's bark to reach the phloem of the tree, which contains the tree's organic nutrients. The beetles then feed on these nutrients and lay their eggs. The trees defend themselves by secreting extra resin, but the beetles are often able to combat this by releasing a blue fungi. In about two weeks time, the tree turns a tell-tale red and essentially starves to death. The mountain pine beetles move on.
The global rich are eating the poor's fish: new report shows tropical fish catch gravely under-estimated
(07/10/2008) After a week of bad news regarding marine life — it was reported that half of U.S. coral reefs are in fair to poor condition and one-third of all coral species are threatened globally — there is still more: a study of twenty tropical islands showed that recreational and subsistence fishing has gone almost completely unreported from 1950 to 2004. In fifteen of twenty cases the fish take was at least doubled when local fish catches were added, and in the most extreme case, American Samoa, the amount of fish collected was 17 times what was previously recorded.
Palm oil industry moves into the Amazon rainforest
(07/09/2008) Malaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA has announced plans to immediately establish 100,000 hectares (250,000) of oil palm plantations in the Brazilian Amazon. The agency will partner with Braspalma, a local company, to form Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd. FELDA will have a 70 percent stake in the venture. The announcement had been expected. Last month Najib said Malaysia would seek to expand its booming palm oil industry overseas. The country is facing land constraints at home.
Oceans hold vast potential for wind power
(07/09/2008) The North Pacific, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tierra del Fuego in South America, and the mid-latitudes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are potential locations for wind power generation, according to new satellite data from NASA.
Volunteering with Leatherback Sea Turtles in Galibi, Suriname
(07/08/2008) The northern coast of Suriname is one of the best places in the world to view the largest turtle, the marine Leatherback. Watching the turtle rise out of the tides onto the beach gives one the sense of meeting something ancient, rare, and more sea-monster than marine turtle. Yet, if I call it a sea-monster, I do not mean that it is frightening or ugly: far from it. But it is mysterious, terrible, and wondrous.
Cuteness determines whether the public will support saving species from extinction
(07/07/2008) How much would you pay to prevent the extinction of the humpback whale? The giant panda? Or how about the red-cockaded woodpecker, the striped shiner, or the water vole? With finite funds and increasing threats to species, should such decision be made on popularity, perceived utility, or ecology?
New math shows that threat of extinction is underestimated globally
(07/07/2008) For some species the odds of survival may have changed. According to a new study current extinction models have underestimated the threat of extinction by not factoring in differences among individuals in a population. Such differences include the ratio of males to females, size and health of animals, and individual behvaioral patterns. A study conducted by Brett Melbourne of University of Colorado, Boulder and Alan Hastings of the University of California, Davis, shows that the new model speeds the extinction time for some species up to 100 times what was previously thought.
Some grasslands resilient against climate change, according to 13 year study
(07/07/2008) In Buxton, England--a spa town lying in the county of Derbyshire--scientists have spent 13 years subjecting grasslands to temperature increases and precipitation shifts consistent with climate change predictions. Considered one of the longest studies of climate change on natural ecosystems, the grasslands of Buxton proved surprisingly resilient to most of the effects of climate change.
20% of Amazon timber illegally harvested from protected areas
(07/07/2008) 20 percent of Amazon timber is illegally harvested from protected areas according to a report published in O'Globo.
Colorful insects help search for anti-cancer drugs
(07/07/2008) Brightly-colored beetles or caterpillars feeding on a tropical plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer and parasitic diseases, report researchers writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The discovery could help speed drug discovery.
Britain urges 'cautious approach' on biofuels
(07/07/2008) Britain and the E.U. should exercise caution in pushing for wider use of biofuels, warns a new study commissioned by the U.K. government.
Whale biomimicry inspires better wind turbines
(07/07/2008) By studying and mimicking the characteristics of the flippers, fins and tails of whales and dolphins, engineers have devised more a efficient way to generate wind power, reports a researcher presenting at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille, France.
Carbon payments may not protect biodiversity
(07/07/2008) Paying rural landowners in Oregon's Willamette Basin to protect at-risk animals won't necessarily mean that their newly conserved trees and plants will absorb more carbon from the atmosphere and vice versa, a new study has found.
U.S. coral reefs in trouble
(07/07/2008) Nearly half of U.S. coral reefs are in "poor" or "fair" condition according to a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Australia's largest retailer Woolworths greenwashes rainforest destruction in Indonesia, allege activists
(07/07/2008) Despite a year of protesting, Woolworths continues to carry paper sourced from 'the worst fibre manufacturer in the world'. Woolworths Limited is Australia's largest retailer and the world's 25th largest; it is also the only Australian company to make into the top twenty-five. It is the "Wal-mart of Down-Under". And much like Wal-mart, Woolworths has attempted to become more green recently. Though, according to a recent campaign entitled "Wake Up Woolworths", this is merely the worst in greenwashing.
Good news for reefs: giant coral structure found off Brazil
(07/07/2008) Amid a series of dire reports on the status of coral reefs, scientists announced the discovery of a reef off the southern coast of Brazil's Bahia state that doubles the size of the Southern Atlantic Ocean's largest and richest reef system, the Abrolhos Bank.
Planet of the Apes Has Arrived, and It Is Spain
(07/03/2008) Visiting Spain's Barcelona zoo as a child, I was greeted to a memorable sight. In one of the cages sat a gorilla, but not just any primate. I had come face to face with the legendary albino ape "Little Snowflake." Because of Snowflake's white coat, when I looked at him I felt like I was peering into the eyes of a wizened old man. The only difference was that Snowflake's eyes were pink!
U.S. should merge NOAA, USGS to form national Environmental Agency
(07/03/2008) The United States should establish a new agency "to meet the unprecedented environmental and economic challenges facing the nation" argue a group of former senior federal officials in an editorial published in the journal Science.
CO2 emissions could doom fishing industry
(07/03/2008) Aside from warming climate, rising carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to ocean acidification, threatening sea live, warn researchers writing in the journal Science. This trend makes it all the more important to reduce emissions, argue the authors.
Parks help people to the detriment of biodiversity, suggests study
(07/03/2008) The establishment of nature reserves in Africa and Latin America has been a boon to human settlement but comes at a cost to biodiversity, suggests a new study published in the journal Science. Analyzing 306 rural protected areas in 45 countries in Africa and Latin America, George Wittemyer and colleagues found that the rate of human population growth along the borders of reserves was nearly twice that of neighboring rural areas.
Orangutan populations drop due to logging, expansion for palm oil
(07/03/2008) Orangutan populations have fallen sharply on the two islands where they still live, reports a new study published in the journal Oryx.
Welcome to the Jungle: An Introduction to the End of the Industrial Era
(07/03/2008) The existing state of industrial civilization has brought our planet and global populations into a worldwide crisis unprecedented in the history of life on Earth. Human activities have sent many living systems into decline or collapse, brought about the 6th mass extinction of biodiversity, upset our planet's biogeochemical cycles, and rapidly and dangerously altered our climate. We stand at the bifurcation point of our species: whether or not we are able to question the maladaptive behvaiors which have brought about these travesties and adapt on a global scale will determine the course of human evolution and the survival of a multitude of living organisms with which we share this planet. As the only reflectively conscious organism to have existed, we also hold the fate of (reflective) sentience itself in our actions. I believe our chance at pulling ourselves out of this mess is through an analytical dissection of human nature and behvaior — to expose, extract, examine, revise and communicate the elements of our existence which drive us into maladaptive behvaiors followed by an application of technology and action grounded in a new and emerging understanding of humanity and our position in the biosphere.
Chinese prefer tigers in the wild over tigers on their plates
(07/02/2008) A new survey shows that most Chinese would rather have tigers living in the wild than tiger products on their dinner plates. However the poll also revealed some notable contradictions in attitudes toward the trade in tiger parts.
Meet Spook, the world's oldest gray seal
(07/02/2008) At the age of 43, Spook is the oldest gray seal on record at any aquarium or zoo in the world. He has surpassed his gray seal relatives in the wild that can live to 30 years of age. Spook may be a senior citizen among seals, but retirement is not on his radar.
Nepal's tiger population plummets due to poaching
(07/02/2008) Nepal's tiger population have plummeted due to poaching and a booming trade in their parts, according to a government survey released Tuesday.
Census of marine life opens with 122,000 species
(07/01/2008) Discovering a new species can be the highlight of a biologist's career. Yet once a species enters the formal literature, complications may develop. The systen has been especially problematic because for centuries biologists have lacked the tools to construct a full and flexible list of the world's innumerable species. Using the Internet and hundreds of scientists around the world, the Census of Marine Life is attempting to take on this monumental task.
Clean energy gold rush in 2007
(07/01/2008) New investment in renewables and energy efficiency surpassed $148 billion in 2007, rising 60 percent rise from 2006, according to an analysis issued Tuesday July 1 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). High oil prices drove the trend.
Brazil fines 24 ethanol producers for illegal forest clearing
(07/01/2008) Brazil fined two dozen ethanol producers accused of illegal clearing the country's endangered Mata Atlântica or Atlantic rainforest, reports The Associated Press.
Louisiana signs non-corn ethanol law to produce a better biofuel
(07/01/2008) Louisiana has signed into law legislation to develop an advanced biofuel industry that excludes corn as a feedstock, reports Biopact.
Sarawak to continue logging forests for oil palm plantations
(06/30/2008) Despite a prime minister's directive banning conversion of forest reserves for oil palm plantations, the Malaysian state of Sarawak will continue to open up forest land for oil palm plantations, reports the New Straits Times.
Rainforest destruction becomes industry-driven, concentrated geographically
(06/30/2008) New analysis of global deforestation reveals that the bulk of tropical forest loss is occurring in a small number of countries. The research — published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) — shows that Brazil accounts for nearly half of global deforestation, nearly four times that of the next highest country, Indonesia, which makes up about an eighth of worldwide forest clearing.
Chameleon has shortest life span of any four-legged animal
(06/30/2008) A newly discovered species of chameleon lives a cicada-like existence, spending the bulk of its short year-long life in its egg, report researchers writing in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Brazil signs sustainable ethanol deal with Sweden
(06/27/2008) A group of Brazilian ethanol producers has signed the first deal to export certified sustainable ethanol, reports Reuters.
California plan would cut emissions 30% by 2020
(06/27/2008) California announced a plan to reduce state greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.
The Importance of Immediate Action for Climate Mitigation
(06/27/2008) Speed matters for successfully managing the transition to a low-carbon future. We need to start now with immediate mitigation to learn what works best to limit climate emissions and enhance sinks, and to build confidence to strengthen efforts in the future. Immediate mitigation also is essential for getting ahead of accelerating climate feedbacks by quickly reducing greenhouse gas concentrations from the current 385 ppm (growing fast at 2 ppm/year) to a safe level — perhaps as low as 350 ppm.
Lion die-offs in Africa linked to global warming
(06/26/2008) Scientists have linked climate shifts in East Africa to die-offs in lion populations in 1994 and 2001. The research is published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.
Malaysian government says no more forest clearing for oil palm plantations
(06/26/2008) The Malaysian government said it will prohibit forest clearing for the establishment of oil palm plantations.
Global warming causes plants to move to higher elevations
(06/26/2008) Global warming has caused many plant species to move to higher elevations, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Tropical biodiversity on "a trajectory toward disaster"
(06/26/2008) Despite recent debate over the extent of regenerating secondary forest cover, the effectiveness of protected areas and tropical extinctions protections, global biodiversity remains under great threat, warn scientists writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Study redraws family tree of birds
(06/26/2008) The largest-ever study of bird genetics has rewritten avian taxonomy. The work is published in this week's issue of Science.
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