conservation news and environmental science news.
Global warming could cause catastrophic die-off of Amazon rainforest by 2080
(10/23/2006) For the Amazon, there is an immense threat looming on the horizon: climate change could well cause most of the Amazon rainforest to disappear by the end of the century. Dr. Philip Fearnside, a Research Professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil and one of the most cited scientists on the subject of climate change, understands the threat well. Having spent more than 30 years in Brazil and now recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on the Amazon rainforest, Fearnside is working to do nothing less than to save this remarkable ecosystem. Fearnside believes saving the Amazon will require a fundamental shift in perception where the Amazon is recognized as an asset beyond the current price of mahogany, soybeans, or cattle, where its value is only unlocked by its destruction. The Amazon is far worth more than this he says. It can play a key role in fighting climate change while providing economic sustenance for millions through sustainable agriculture and rational utilization of its renewable products. It can serve as a storehouse for biodiversity while at the same time ensuring reliable water supplies and moderating regional temperature and precipitation. In short, maintaining the Amazon as a viable ecosystem makes sense economically and ecologically -- it is in our best interest to preserve this resource while we still can.
Extremophile bacteria suggest possibility of life on other plants
(10/22/2006) A community of bacteria found feeding on radioactive rocks nearly two miles underground provides potential clues on the nature of life on other worlds say researchers at Princeton University.
Climate change to cause more extreme weather
(10/19/2006) Climate change will cause extreme weather to be a more common occurrence according to new computer modeling by researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Texas Tech University, and Australia's Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre.
Tremendous loss of ice in Greenland finds new NASA study
(10/19/2006) For the first time NASA scientists have confirmed that Greenland's ice sheet is shrinking. Using a new remote sensing technique that reveals regional changes in the weight of the massive ice sheet across the entire continent, researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center found that Greenland suffered a net loss of 25 cubic miles (101 gigatons) of ice per year between 2003 and 2005.
Ozone hole is the largest and deepest ever recorded
(10/19/2006) NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists that this year's Antarctic ozone hole is the largest and deepest ever recorded. "From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles," said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. At the same time, scientists from the NOAA"s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., found that nearly all of the ozone in the layer between eight and 13 miles above the Earth"s surface has been destroyed.
400 million year old gives evolutionary clues
(10/19/2006) A fossil fish discovered in the West Australian Kimberley has been identified as the missing clue in vertebrate evolution, rewriting a century-old theory on how the first land animals evolved.
Population of bizarre Mongolian antelope plunges 95% in 15 years
(10/19/2006) A group of scientists led by the New York-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) working in Mongolia's windswept Gobi Desert recently fitted high-tech GPS (Global Positioning System) collars on eight saiga antelope in an effort to help protect one of Asia's most bizarre-looking -- and endangered -- large mammals.
Traditional customs pit young versus old in Indonesia's Torajaland
(10/19/2006) Cultural Bankruptcy: Maintaining History at a Tremendous Cost in Sulawesi's Torajaland. The Torajanese people of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, have long been renown for their extravagant celebrations of the dead in their funerals, graves and effigies. Just outside of Rantepao, the regional capital of Torajaland, ostentatious, costly and increasingly generationally divisive funerals take place on a regular basis. Like other indigenous cultures around the world, a growing rift between the young and old generations is calling the foundations of tradition into question.
In search of rare, high elevation monkeys in China
(10/19/2006) High in the cloud-shrouded Yunling mountains of northwestern Yunnan and southeastern Tibet (southwestern China) lives one of the world's most elusive monkeys, the Yunnan golden or snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti). Despite dwelling the most extreme environment of any monkey species -- high-altitude evergreen forests at elevations from 3000 - 4500 m (9800 - 14,800 feet) where temperatures may fall below freezing for several months in a row -- today there are less than 2000 of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys remaining. Hunting and habitat loss has brought the species, which is limited to a single mountain range and fragmented into 15 small sub-populations at risk to genetic bottlenecks and inbreeding depression, to the brink of extinction.
Commercial fishing can cause fish population imbalance
(10/18/2006) New research has found that commercial fishing can cause significant fluctuations in marine fish populations. Writing in Nature, scientists from several institutions and agencies argue that fishing can amplify the highs and lows of natural population variability.
Bears becoming couch potatoes thanks to dumpsters
(10/18/2006) Research by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) has found that bears living near urban areas are becoming couch potatoes, a third less active and weighing up to thirty percent more than bears living in more wild areas. Bears are apparently forsaking their natural food sources and spending more time foraging in dumpsters.
Brazil says no to rainforest privatization plan, asks Gore for help
(10/18/2006) On Tuesday Brazil rejected a alleged British proposal to fight climate change by 'privatizing' parts of the Amazon rainforest, according to Reuters. In an editorial published on the opinion page of Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, Environment Minister Marina Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said that the Amazon was 'not for sale'. Their comments were expected since Brazil has long objected to internationalization of the Amazon, seeing such attempts as a threat to its sovereignty. The 'Amazon privatization' report, which originally appeared in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper on October 1, 2006, said that David Miliband, Britain's Environment Secretary, planned to propose an initiative that would turn parts of the Amazon into an 'international trust' wherein credible buyers could lockup parts of the rainforest for preservation. However, shortly after the article was published, Miliband's office strongly rejected the story.
Google worried about global warming?
(10/17/2006) Google said it plans to build a solar-powered electricity system at its Silicon Valley headquarters that be the largest solar installation on any corporate campus in the United States.
Rainforests face myriad of threats says leading Amazon scholar
(10/17/2006) The world's tropical rainforests are in trouble. Spurred by a global commodity boom and continuing poverty in some of the world's poorest regions, deforestation rates have increased since the close of the 1990s. The usual threats to forests -- agricultural conversion, wildlife poaching, uncontrolled logging, and road construction -- could soon be rivaled, and even exceeded, by climate change and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Understanding these threats is key to preserving forests and their ecological services for current and future generations. William F. Laurance, a distinguished scholar and president of the Association for Tropical Biology and conservation (ATBC) -- the world's largest scientific organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, is at the forefront of this effort.
Malaysia adopts new remote sensing technology to detect illegal forest burning
(10/16/2006) Last month Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Sri Najib Tun Razak announced that Malaysia will use a new remote sensing technology to detect illegal logging and forest fires in the country.
Brazil proposes compensation plan for rainforest conservation
(10/16/2006) Last month Brazil proposed the establishment of a fund to compensate developing countries that reduce deforestation, a move that follows a similar initiative by a coalition of developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica. The scheme could help cut greenhouse gas emissions that result from forest clearing and conversion. Deforestation currently is responsible for 20-25 percent of such heat-trapping emissions.
China needs 5 million cubic meters more of tropical timber by 2010
(10/16/2006) China needs 5 million cubic meters more of tropical timber by 2010 according to the September 15-30 ITTO Tropical Timber Market Report, a publication published by the International Tropical Timber Organization. China is already the world's largest consumer of tropical wood, importing more than twice the volume of tropical logs as India, the second largest importer on the list.
US population set to break 300m Tuesday
(10/16/2006) The U.S. population is expected to reach 300 million people on Tuesday, October 17 according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The world's largest economy has the fastest population growth (0.91 percent) of G-8 countries, meaning the country adds another 2.8 million people a year, equivalent to the addition of another Arkansas or Kansas. The United States is the third largest country in the world, behind China and India.
Forest fires result from government failure in Indonesia
(10/16/2006) Indonesia is burning again. Smoke from fires set for land-clearing in South Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra are causing pollution levels to climb in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, resulting in mounting haze-related health problems, traffic accidents, and associated economic costs. The country's neighbors are again clamoring for action but ultimately the fires will burn until they are extinguished by seasonal rains in coming months
Unchecked global warming will cost trillions says report
(10/14/2006) A new Friends of the Earth-backed report by economists at Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute says that global warming could cost trillions of dollars should temperature increases exceed two degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)
Phytoplankton generate about five times as much energy as humans finds study
(10/14/2006) A new study estimates that oceanic phytoplankton generate about five times the annual total energy consumption of humans.
NAND PCs may have environmental benefits over standard hard disk PCs
(10/13/2006) Fujitsu announced it will start shipping PCs that use NAND-flash drives instead of standard hard drives. While the new format will be substantially more expensive -- on the order of $670 to replace a 20GB hard drive with a 16GB worth of flash memory -- it will make the laptops lighter and more shock-resistant, extend battery life by 30 minutes and improve system performance on start-up. The shift may have ancillary benefits as well: less energy usage and reduction of components that use metals. The following originally appeared on October 28, 2006 on mongabay.com.
Shell estimates cost of fighting climate change at 0.3% GDP
(10/13/2006) A new report by Shell Oil estimates that the cost of fighting climate change in the Britain by 2010 would be equivalent to just 0.3 percent of GDP. The report also says that the effort to address climate change could be worth £30bn ($56 billion) to businesses in the UK.
Insurance industry needs to do more to fight global warming
(10/13/2006) The insurance industry needs to do more to address the growing impact of climate-change induced damaged according to a report issued this week by insurance giant Allianz and environmental group WWF.
Methane from peat bogs may worsen global warming
(10/13/2006) New research says that methane released from peat bogs at the end of the past ice age worsen global warming. The study warns that a similar event could worsen climate change by causing a rapid shift in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
Solar Energy Powers Mainland China's Richest Man
(10/12/2006) The largest private fortune in mainland China may belong to Shi Zhengrong, the founder of the China's largest producer of photovoltaic equipment used to convert sunlight into eletricity, according to an article in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal.
Warming climate causing Alaska lakes to dry up
(10/12/2006) More than 10,000 Alaskan lakes "shrunk in size or completely dried up" between 1950 and 2002 according to a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research--Biogeosciences. The study says that during this period, "Alaska has experienced a warming climate with longer growing seasons, increased thawing of permafrost, and greater water loss due to evaporation from open water and transpiration from vegetation; yet there has been no substantial change in precipitation."
Extinction may be linked to Earth's tilt and orbital variations
(10/12/2006) A new study suggests that variations in Earth's orbit and tilt may be linked to extinctions of mammal species. Examining the fossilized teeth of rodents over a 22 million year period, researchers lead by Jan van Dam of Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that the disappearance of mammal species -- which survive an average of 2.5 million years before going exinct -- cluster around specific cycles at one million and 2.4 million years. The one million year cycle correponds to wobbles in Earth's orbit, while the 970,000-year cycle is tied to shifts of the Earth on its axis. The cycles are assocation with lower temperatures and changes in precipitation.
Bering Strait land bridge may have flooded earlier than thought
(10/11/2006) Researchers have found evidence suggesting that the Bering Strait land bridge believed to be the major route for human migration from Asia to the Americas may have flooded about 1,000 years earlier than widely thought. The findings may help scientists develop ocean and climate histories for the region to better understand human migration. The study is published in the October issue of Geology magazine by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Global warming and pollution could doom oysters
(10/11/2006) Oysters exposed to high water temperatures and a common heavy metal are unable to obtain sufficient oxygen and convert it to cellular energy, according to a new study presented at The American Physiological Society conference, Comparative Physiology 2006.
Higher oxygen levels could produce monster insects
(10/11/2006) Higher concentrations of oxygen could produce giant insects according to a paper presented at the Comparative Physiology conference currently meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The paper, 'No giants today: tracheal oxygen supply to the legs limits beetle size,' based on research by a team of American researchers, offers evidence that Paleozoic insects were substantially larger because they had a richer oxygen supply. During the late Paleozoic period, about 300 million years ago, the air's oxygen content was around 35 percent, compared to 21 percent today. As a result some dragonflies had two-and-a-half-foot wing spans, while giant spiders roamed the ancient forests.
Photo of new bird species discovered in Colombia
(10/10/2006) A bird species new to science has been discovered on a remote mountain range in northern Colombia according to conservation International. The Yariguies Brush-Finch (Atlapetes latinuchus yariguierum), a large and colorful finch with black, yellow and red plumage, is described in the June issue of the scientific journal Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club.
Fires in Central America worsen air quality in Texas
(10/10/2006) Agricultural fires in Central America can impact air quality and climate in Texas, Oklahoma, and other parts of the southern United States according to new research from NASA.
Photos from Xinjiang, a Muslim region in western China
(10/09/2006) Xinjiang, China's largest and western-most province, is one of the planet's most remote and desolate regions. Covering more than one-sixth the country's territory, Xinjiang borders Tibet, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and is dominated by ethnic minorities, notably the Muslim Uyghurs who make up nearly half the 18 million who live in the province. Xinjiang's ethnic mix reflects its historical importance as a central part of the Silk Road, a trading route used since ancient times to transport good between East and West.
Dust may weaken Atlantic hurricanes
(10/09/2006) Sahara Desert dust may weaken Atlantic hurricanes according to a new study published in the latest issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
A look at the biodiversity extinction crisis
(10/07/2006) As tropical forests -- the world's biological treasure troves -- continue to dwindle, biologists are racing to devise ways to save them and their resident biodiversity. While many conservation biologists talk about population viability analysis and intricacies of reserve layouts, David L. Pearson, a research professor at the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona, focuses on a different approach: education.
Massive coral bleaching in Madagascar
(10/06/2006) A new survey of reefs along Madagascar's southwestern coast found massive damage from coral bleaching, including some reefs that lost up to 99 percent of their coral cover. But the survey team, led by the conservation groups Blue Ventures and the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) and funded by conservation International (CI), also found some signs of hope. Scientists discovered several small reefs with corals that appeared to be resilient to rising sea temperatures and could ultimately be used to reseed damaged reefs. These resilient reefs may also provide valuable information about how to protect corals from future damage.
Global warming threatens western U.S.
(10/06/2006) Global warming will cause drastic changes -- including reduction in snowpack, worsening droughts, increases in wildfire and invasive species, and loss of regional biodiversity -- in the American West if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.
New bird species discovered in Colombia
(10/05/2006) A bird species new to science has been discovered on a remote mountain range in northern Colombia according to conservation International.
$24 million debt-for-nature swap in Guatemala
(10/05/2006) Tropical forest conservation efforts in Guatemala will receive $24 million under a debt-for-nature swap arranged by conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy, and the governments of the United States and Guatemala.
Weak El Nino returns to the Pacific
(10/05/2006) NASA satellite data indicates El Nino has returned to the tropical Pacific Ocean, although in a relatively weak condition that may not persist and is currently much less intense than the last major El Niño episode in 1997-1998.
Northeastern U.S. at risk from global warming
(10/05/2006) A new report warns that global warming will "substantially change" the climate in the northeastern if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
Borneo and Sumatra burn as forest fires rage
(10/05/2006) Forest fires are again buring across Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia) according to satellite images released this week by NASA.
Hospitals go green
(10/04/2006) Some hospitals are going "green" in an effort to cut pollution and toxic emissions that hurt the health of patients and surrounding communities according to an article in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal.
Arctic sea ice levels fall
(10/04/2006) Arctic sea ice fell to the fourth lowest level on record according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Farmers fight FDA over pet turtle ban
(10/04/2006) Farmers are battling the FDA over the legality of turtles that were once commonly kept as pets according to an article in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal.
Up to 73 million sharks killed per year for their fins
(10/04/2006) Between 26 million and 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins according to a new paper published in the October 2006 edition of Ecology Letters. The estimates are three times higher than those projected by the United Nations.
Albatrosses at risk due to fishing
(10/04/2006) About 1 percent of world's waved albatrosses were killed by fisherman in a one-year period according to a new study published online Sept. 26 in the journal Biological conservation
Wells Fargo Makes Largest Corporate Renewable Energy Purchase
(10/03/2006) Wells Fargo said today it will buy renewable energy certificates (RECs) to support generating 550 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable wind energy a year for three years. With this action, Wells Fargo becomes the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the United States according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Salmon Farms Kill Wild Fish
(10/03/2006) New research confirms that sea lice from fish farms kill wild salmon. Up to 95 per cent of the wild juvenile salmon that migrate past fish farms die as a result of sea lice infestation from the farms. The results of the research have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America.
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